QUEENSLAND'S last police tracker was brought in to help unlock
the mystery of missing gold prospector Bruce Schuler, 48.
Barry Port, 70, spent three days and nights searching for any sign of
Mr Schuler in what he described as some of the most difficult country and
conditions he had ever known.
The Mareeba miner was last seen alive about 10.30am last Monday while
in a verbal stoush with a local grazier.
Three fellow miners fossicking with Mr Schuler about a kilometre from
the Palmerville station homestead reported hearing two gunshots. But even Mr
Port's hunt for blood, clothing and tracks was not enough.
He said the extreme difficulty of picking up an old trail was made
harder by debris scattered by the down-draught of searching helicopters.
"It's hard country to track in," said Mr Port, who joined the
Queensland Police in Coen in 1981. "It's very hilly.
"There are lots of broken trees and limbs. They've had the choppers
overhead for days, which threw me off.
"I could not find any signs to follow. We were looking for bootprints,
bits of clothing, his pick, shovel or metal detector, stuff like that."
Two helicopters have been deployed as part of the search involving 15
police, SES crews and stock squad officers on horseback and quad bikes.
Mr Port's unique tracking skills are a dying art.
The Lama Lama elder is the final link in the historical chain of
indigenous police acclaimed for their skills in finding people lost or
hiding in the scrub from famous cases such as tracking down Ned Kelly, to
uncovering secret drug crops or missing bushwalkers.
Coen police's Sergeant Frank Falappi, who works closely with Mr Port,
said the tracker, one of three once based in Coen, was impressive to watch.
"It is a pity no one is following in his footsteps," he said
"I haven't seen anyone his age move as quickly over country as he
"It is amazing what he can see in the landscape. He can see human and
animal tracks in the bush that are almost impossible for us to make out,
even when he shows us up close. It is a dying art and a terrible shame the
tradition of police tracking not be continued."
Mr Port is the last Queenslander to wear the police tracker badge and
Search for missing man draws a blank
CREWS are continuing to camp overnight in harsh terrain on Cape
York as the search for missing gold prospector Bruce Schuler enters its
The 48-year-old Mareeba man vanished on July
9 after he became separated from three fellow prospectors along the
Palmer River, west of Cooktown.
The 1200sqkm Palmerville Station remains a crime scene, while
aerial and ground crews search for clues to Mr Schuler's disappearance.
The search party includes an Aboriginal tracker, helicopter,
ground crews and police on horseback.
"We have a crime scene warrant for the whole property," Far
Northern Region regional crime co-ordinator Det Insp Bruno Asnicar said.
"There are certain places we are looking at."
The case was still being treated as a missing persons
investigation, but there were grave concerns for Mr Schuler.
"It's been a long time and he is a local up there," Mr Asnicar
"He knows the area very well, he was well kitted out with GPS and
so forth so it's extremely concerning he hasn't walked out."
Police have confirmed reported gun shots are being investigated
and two people were released from custody after being questioned over Mr
Mr Asnicar said the Aboriginal tracker was helping lead crews
through the thick bushland and gullies.
"I believe he is the last tracker we have and he's an absolute
expert in tracking people through rough terrain," he said.
Police chase missing prospector leads
Detectives investigating the possible murder of a far
north Queensland prospector will attend the state's gold panning
championships in Mareeba this weekend.
It is one month since Bruce Schuler, 48, went missing while
prospecting with three other people near Palmerville Station in Cape York.
Senior Constable Russell Parker says more than 20 police, including
the homicide squad, are continuing to piece together events leading up to
"Anyone that's experienced issues there with the landholders, problems
with access and so on, any threats and so on we would like to receive that
information from them," he said.
"To that end, the detectives will be up in Mareeba this weekend.
"The Queensland Gold Panning Championships are being held there on
Saturday and they'll be setting up our mobile police facility."
Couple accused of murdering missing gold
A far north Queensland couple is due to appear in the
Cairns Magistrates Court today, charged with murdering a 48-year-old Mareeba
Bruce Schuler was reported missing by fellow gold prospectors near the
Palmer River, south-west of Cooktown in early July, and his body is yet to
Yesterday, police including officers from the homicide squad, arrested
a 55-year-old man and a 50-year-old woman, from Palmerville, in relation to
Mr Schuler's death.
They are in custody and both are due to appear in court today, charged
with murder and improper conduct with a corpse.
Regional crime coordinator Bruno Asnicar says detectives are still
trying to find his body.
"It's involved a lot of police from Brisbane - it's involved every
officer, every detective in every section that we have here in Cairns," he
"It's had a lot of scientific and forensic resources allocated to it.
"We've had the dive squad up here searching rivers and we've had SERT
[the Special Emergency Response Team] involved protecting those personnel
because of the remoteness of the area and the risk of crocodiles."
He says there has been extensive land and air searches to try and
locate Mr Schuler.
"That hasn't occurred as of yet - I want to say though that this isn't
the end of that either," he said
"This investigation is continuing - I intend to continue to throw as
many resources as I need at this investigation for a considerable period of
Cape York couple convicted of murdering gold prospector Bruce Schuler in far
north Queensland three years ago
A Cape York couple have been convicted of murdering a gold prospector, who
disappeared on their property three years ago.
Mareeba man Bruce Schuler, 48, went missing in July 2012 at Palmerville
Station, sparking a massive air, ground, and underwater search which failed
to find any trace of him.
Following a two-week trial in the Supreme Court in Cairns, a jury found the
station's leaseholders Stephen Struber, 58, and Dianne Wilson, 55, guilty of
In sentencing the pair to life imprisonment, Justice Jim Henry said: "It has
been well over a century since the turbulent, sometimes violent days of the
Palmer River gold rush.
"That in this day and age, long removed from those frontier days, it beggars
belief that station leaseholders could become so detached from standards of
civilised behaviour and could've engaged in such cowardly and callous
behaviour as this."
It was a murder case without a body or any direct forensic evidence linking
the couple to Mr Schuler's death.
From the outset, the crown conceded it did not know exactly who had killed
Mr Schuler or how, but argued there was enough circumstantial evidence to
prove one of the couple had, and the other was a party to it.
"Where did this offence take place? Palmerville, or as [one witness put it],
'Struberville'," prosecutor Nigel Rees told the court.
"A property that is some 500 square miles in size. The size of some small
countries. And probably, probably, one of the largest crime scenes ever
"You may also think that's enough space to dispose of a body."
The crown's case rested on the evidence of Mr Schuler's fellow prospectors,
who reported hearing two gunshots several minutes apart after a vehicle
matching the couple's pulled up in the area they were searching for gold.
They were on the land without permission, and Struber had confronted one of
them about a week prior, telling him to get off his land.
Justice Henry said the couple may have fired the first shot to scare off, or
injure Mr Schuler.
"Once begun, this conduct obviously spiralled out of control with the
probably panicked but truly dreadful decision made to pursue and shoot
again," he said.
"It was surely that callous, calculating behaviour which in the jury's
unanimous view elevated this beyond manslaughter to a case of murder.
"Consistent with that dreadful choice you followed through and disposed in
some unknown way of the body of Bruce Schuler."
The trial heard police found drops of Mr Schuler's blood, burnt patches of
grass, and tyre marks matching the Strubers' car in a gully about two
kilometres from the homestead.
Defence argues crown failed to prove Bruce Schuler is dead
The prosecutor said the couple had demonstrated no remorse through the
proceedings, and had denied any involvement in Mr Schuler's disappearance.
Under cross-examination, Struber said the couple was not in the area the
shots were heard, and had spent the day repairing a loader.
"We weren't there," he repeatedly said on the stand.
During the trial, the defence attacked the credibility of Mr Schuler's
companions, highlighting inconsistencies between what they told the jury and
what they told police initially about how well they saw who was inside the
Defence barrister Joshua Trevino argued the crown had failed to prove if Mr
Schuler was even dead.
'Why did you hurt him? Where is he?'
The court heard Mr Schuler had purchased a mining lease a year prior to his
disappearance, and was a loving husband and father of two.
"You know he was happy, you know he enjoyed prospecting, he had the support
of his wife Fiona, and you know he has not been heard from since the 9th of
July 2012," Mr Rees said.
Mr Schuler's wife of 28 years, Fiona Splitt, read a victim impact statement
out in court, saying her world had stopped after her husband was murdered
"and then discarded somewhere unknown like a piece of rubbish".
"How could someone have so little regard for human life? What sort of evil
must live inside of someone that could be this immoral and depraved?" she
"Why did you hurt him? Where is he? How do I ever stop this nightmare from
tearing my heart and mind apart?
"I will not rest until we find Bruce and bring him home.
"No-one deserves to be disregarded like he's been. We deserve the
opportunity to say goodbye properly, to lay him to rest. Until we bring him
home our family will truly not have any closure."
IN a murder mystery which harks back to the wild days of the
Palmer River gold rush, a couple who slayed a gold prospector
and hid his body deep in the Far North Queensland outback have
been sentenced to a life behind bars.
Cape York graziers Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber have
been found guilty of murdering miner Bruce Schuler on their vast
Palmerville Station, after finding him fossicking up a dry gully
on their property three years ago.
Presiding judge Justice Jim Henry said their “cowardly, callous”
killing was a return to the tumultuous days of the late 1800s gold
rush, which occurred on the same rugged country where Mr Schuler was
shot dead on July 9, 2012.
With no trace of Mr Schuler ever found and no witnesses to his
killing, his daughter conceded her family “may never know” what
happened to the 48-year-old father of two.
But a jury has now determined Mr Schuler was shot dead and his body
discarded somewhere on a 130,000ha property which spans a “river of
“It has been well over a century since the turbulent and sometimes
violent days of the Palmer River gold rush, that in this day and
age, long removed from those frontier days, it beggars belief that
station leaseholders could become so detached from the standards of
civilised behaviour and could have engaged in such cowardly, callous
behaviour as this,” Justice Henry said.
Principal Crown Prosecutor Nigel Rees admitted he could not say
exactly who played what part in Mr Schuler’s demise, and built his
case on circumstantial evidence to ultimately have the co-accused
In a two-week trial in the Cairns Supreme Court, the jury heard
about a gold strike, the boom of gunfire, missing weapons, a missing
body and flecks of blood found on a rock.
The jury was taken on a two-night trip to view key locations on
Palmverville – described by Mr Rees as “probably the largest crime
scene ever declared” – and told about a Croc Hole, Cannibal Creek,
empty mine shafts from a foregone era, and a ghost town to the east.
The trial hinged on the testimony of three gold prospectors –
Daniel Bidner, Tremain Anderson and Kevin Groth – who were on a
fossicking expedition on “Struberville” with Mr Schuler when he
In handing down two life sentences to the Strubers yesterday,
Justice Jim Henry speculated on the doomed gold digger’s final
“This probably began with one of you shooting and intending to hurt,
or at least scare off a prospector who you perceived to be a
trespasser,” he said.
“Once begun, this conduct obviously spiralled out of control, with
the probably panicked, but truly dreadful decision, to pursue and
“Consistent with that dreadful choice, you followed through and
disposed in some unknown way of the body of Bruce Schuler.”
Before Struber and Wilson-Struber, aged 58 and 53 respectively, were
locked away for life, a final plea was made for them to give answers
to the family of the man they killed.
“Whether there are earthly remains of Bruce Schuler to now be found
is solely within your knowledge, as is the whereabouts of those
remains,” Justice Henry said.
“It remains within your power to bring closure to the Schuler family
... by revealing the whereabouts of their loved-one’s remains. For
as long as you do nothing about that, you continue to affirm your
detachment from the civilised standards of our society.”
THE family of murdered gold prospector Bruce Schuler has
launched a petition to keep killers behind bars unless
they disclose where their victims’ remains are.
Mr Schuler’s body has not been found since he vanished while
prospecting on the Palmerville Station more than three years
Graziers Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson-Struber were
found guilty of his murder in July, but have subsequently
appealed their convictions.
Mr Schuler’s widow, Fiona Splitt, launched the petition in
the Queensland Parliament on Tuesday, which is called the
“No body no parole rule”.
In the petition, Ms Splitt said she was calling for an
amendment to the Corrective Services Act 2006 to make it
impossible to obtain parole without disclosing the location
of the victim’s body.
“By making parole contingent upon the location of the body,
it is hoped that this may give some closure to the victim’s
family and provide incentive for prisoners to co-operate
with police and other authorities,” she said.
By last night the petition had already received more than
Daughter Lisa Schuler said her mother had driven the idea,
but their large extended family was right behind it.
“We’ve pretty much been left in the dark for three years,”
“We just want to spread the word and get everyone on board.
And it’s not just for us, but for other people involved in
the same situation.”
Police searched the 130,000ha station during the murder
investigation following Mr Schuler’s disappearance in July
The accused couple was on bail throughout legal proceedings
and the land remains private property, so his family has
been unable to enter and conduct its own searches.
Ms Schuler said that if granted access, they had a large
group of family and friends who had offered to help with a
A date is yet to be set for the appeals.
To sign the petition, click here.
Seeking no parole for killers who hide location of body
Bruce Schuler murder: Stephen Struber, Dianne Wilson appeal against
A couple convicted of murdering a gold prospector in far north Queensland
are appealing against their convictions.
The Supreme Court in Townsville is hearing new evidence over the 2012 murder
of Bruce Schuler, 48, near Cairns.
Stephen Struber and Dianne Wilson, both in their 50s, were last year found
guilty of killing Mr Schuler on Palmerville Station.
His body was never found.
A Senior Constable has been giving evidence this morning, revealing
inconsistencies with tyre track measurements taken by police at the time.
He told the court he could not be sure if tracks made on the rough terrain
were from one vehicle or more.